Posts Tagged International Space Station
NASA Looks at 3-D Food Printer for Star Trek-like Replicator
by DAVID DICKINSON on MAY 22, 2013
The International Space Station may soon have its very own Star Trek food replicator.
Earlier this week, NASA awarded a $125,000 six month grant to the Systems & Materials Research Cooperation to design a 3D printer capable of printing a pizza from 30-year shelf stable foodstuffs.
Founded by Anjan Contractor, SMRC built a basic food printer from a chocolate printer to win NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program in a trial video. The design is based on an open-source RepRap 3D printer.
Contractor and SMRC will begin construction on the pizza-printing prototype in two weeks. Pizza has been one item missing from astronauts menu for years. The 3D printer would “build-up” a pizza serving by first layering out the dough onto a heated plate then adding tomato sauce and toppings.
The RepRap self-replicating printer ‘Mendel”. (Credit: CharlesC under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license).
But this isn’t your mother’s pizza, as the proteins would be provided by cartridge injectors filled with organic base powders derived from algae, insects and grass.
Yummy stuff, to be sure!
Of course, one can see an immediate application of 3D food printing technology for long duration space missions. Contractor and SMRC envisions 3D food printing as the wave of the future, with the capacity to solve world hunger for a burgeoning human population.
Could a 3D food printer be coming to a kitchen near you?
Curiously, printing confectioneries and pet food pellets would be the simplest application of said technology. Printing a soufflé and crowned rack of lamb will be tougher. 3D printing technology has made great strides as of late, and RepRap has made a printer which is capable of printing itself. Those who fear the rise of Von Neumann’s self-replicating robots should take note…
Should we welcome or fear our self-replicating, pizza-bearing overlords?
The International Space Station is due for the delivery of its first 3D printer in 2014. This will give astros the capability to fabricate simple parts and tools onsite without requiring machining. Of course, the first question on our minds is: How will a 3D printer function in zero-g? Will one have tomato paste an insect parts flying about? Recent flights aboard a Boeing 727 by Made in Space Inc have been testing 3D printers in micro-gravity environments.
Made in Space demonstrates 3D Printing technology headed to the ISS next year. (Credit: Made in Space Inc./NASA).
Further afield, 3D replicators may arrive on the Moon or Mars ahead of humans, building a prefab colony with raw materials available for colonists to follow.
Artist’s conception of a lunar base constructed with 3D printing technology. (Credit: NASA Lunar Science Institute).
Will 3D food replicators pioneered by SMRC be a permanent fixture on crewed long duration space missions? Plans such as Dennis Tito’s Mars 2018 flyby and the one way Mars One proposal will definitely have to address the dietary dilemmas of hungry astronauts. Biosphere 2 demonstrated that animal husbandry will be impractical on long term missions. Future Martian colonists will definitely eat much farther down the food chain to survive. SpaceX head Elon Musk has recently said in a Twitter response to PETA that he won’t be the “Kale Eating Overlord of Mars,” and perhaps “micro-ranching” of insects will be the only viable alternative to filet mignon on the Red Planet. Hey, it beats Soylent Green… and the good news is, you can still brew beer from algae!
Diagram of a proposed 3D food printer based on ReRap. (Credit: SMRC).
Would YOU take a one way journey to Mars? Would you eat a bug to do it? It’ll be interesting to watch these 3D printers in action as they take to space and print America’s favorite delivery fast food. But it’s yet to be seen if home replicators will put Dominos Pizza out of business anytime soon. Perhaps they’ll only be viable if they can print a pizza in less than “30 minutes!”NASA Looks at 3-D Food Printer for Star Trek-like Replicator.
- Not quite a Trek replicator, but print-your-own-pizza is coming (chron.com)
- NASA Looks at 3-D Food Printer for Star Trek-like Replicator (universetoday.com)
- NASA 3D Food Printer (nasilemaktech.com)
- Engineer Plans to Build 3D Pizza Printer with NASA Grant (tested.com)
- 3D-Printed Pizza In Space! NASA Funds ‘Food Replicator’ For Space Station [VIDEO] (planetsave.com)
- There’s An Audacious Plan To End Hunger With 3-D Printed Food (businessinsider.com)
- The audacious plan to end hunger with 3-D printed food (qz.com)
- NASA’s 3D Printed Food System (robsreallife.wordpress.com)
- NASA Backs Star Trek-Style Replicator That Could 3D Print Pizza In Space! (inhabitat.com)
- NASA Invests In 3-D Food Printer For Mars Missions? (planet.infowars.com)
Incredible Astrophoto: Space Station Flies Over Stonehenge
by NANCY ATKINSON on APRIL 23, 2013
International Space Station pass over Stonehenge, Wiltshire UK, April 20, 2013. Credit and copyright: Tim Burgess. Used by permission.
In a gorgeous mix of archeology and space exploration, photographer Tim Burgess captured a stunning view of the International Space Station passing over the historic and iconic Stonehenge on April 20, 2013. Tim said this composite image is composed of 11 shots, 10 sec, f2.8, 400 ISO. As one person commented on Flickr, “An amazing feat of human engineering passing over an amazing feat of human engineering, captured by an amazing feat of human engineering.”
- Incredible Astrophoto: Space Station Flies Over Stonehenge (universetoday.com)
- Astrophoto: Space Station Flies Through the Moon! (universetoday.com)
- Astrophoto: Beautiful new look at the Orion Nebula (phys.org)
- FEATURE: Explainer: the International Space Station (sciencealert.com.au)
- The Effect of Spaceflight on Growth of Ulocladium chartarum Colonies on the International Space Station (plosone.org)
- Cool photo of Seattle at night – as seen from International Space Station (seattlepi.com)
- Progress Cargo Ship Launches to Space Station (universetoday.com)
- How To Take Pictures From The International Space Station (gizmodo.com.au)
- Stonehenge (intheasylum.wordpress.com)
- Cargo spacecraft blasts off for International Space Station (telegraph.co.uk)
Sequestration Shovels Money to the Russians
By Howard Bloom | Scientific American – 2 hrs 34 mins ago
A widespread opinion is that the sequestration–the blunt whack of $85 billion from the national government’s budget–was, as UPI puts it, “a dumb idea when it was created and it’s a dumb idea now.” But the sequestration may be far dumber than most realize. To save money, this budget bash is about to gush over three quarters of a billion dollars from America‘s space budget directly into the coffers of the Russians. Penny wise and billion dollar foolish.
How does this astonishingly self-defeating cash transfusion to Moscow work?
NASA has a little-known but crucial project called the Commercial Crew Program. In the days of the Space Shuttle it cost roughly $37,500 per pound to get an American astronaut into space. Let’s say that you are that astronaut. Adding in all the oxygen, food, water, and equipment it takes to keep you alive, that’s close to $82.5 million to get you into orbit. Which is the price of flying the entire population of Pittsburgh to LA and back with tickets fromcheapoair.com. But if America can get that cost down, it can make space as accessible as, well, airline trips from Pittsburgh to LA.
This is where the Commercial Crew Program comes in. In the Program, three private companies are competing to deliver US astronauts to the International Space Station. Those companies are Boeing, Sierra Nevada, and Space Exploration Technologies (better known as Space X). All are under contract to meet performance milestones on a timetable that would deliver US astronauts to the International Space Station by 2017 or sooner.
And so far, things look promising. SpaceX has already built the rockets it takes to get to orbit and has put them into regular commercial use. What’s more, SpaceX has designed a Dragon Capsule capable of putting seven humans into space, and has launched two of these capsules, orbited them, and brought them safely back to earth. But that’s not all. On launch number two, the Dragon Capsule carried a load of NASA cargo, docked with the International Space Station, uneventfully transferred its 1,200 pound load, took on 1,673 pounds of used hardware, supplies and more than a ton of scientific samples from the Station packed in a GLACIER (General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator) freezer, and brought that crucial payload to earth. SpaceX plans its third launch of the Dragon capsule with 1,268 pounds of crew supplies and scientific equipment for the International Space Station Friday, March 1st, the day the sequestration is scheduled to take effect.
Normally delivering cargo to orbit costs NASA roughly $10,000 per pound, a lot less than delivering people. But SpaceX’s Dragon Capsule and Falcon 9 can cost an estimated $2,500 per pound, a galumphing 75% savings. What’s more, SpaceX’s head, Elon Musk, has stated that his goal is ten dollars per pound. Yes, you read that right: ten dollars a pound to orbit. Which would bring the cost of putting you into orbit along with the oxygen, food, and water necessary to keep you alive down to $22,000. Not exactly the cost of an airline ticket from Pennsylvania to LA. But within the range of reality for a business traveler, researcher, space colonist, or asteroid miner.
What would sequestration do to this cost-reduction drive? And how do the Russians get into the act? There’s another government blunder that’s been hidden from you and me, hidden in plain sight: America’s space gap.
Ever since the retirement of the Shuttle in 2011, America has been unable to launch astronauts into orbit on American launch vehicles. Yes, there is currently no American craft, no matter how modest, that can put humans into space. At a time when even the Iranians are launching monkeys. Embarrassing, right?
As NASA administrator Charles Bolden told a NASA audience in Huntsville, Alabama, on February 22nd: “Budget sequestration will slow NASA’s effort to start a commercial space industry to take astronauts to the International Space Station on American spacecraft. The gap between America andRussia, which can still launch astronauts, will not close. The gap is going to get bigger. Anybody who thinks this is no big deal – it’s a big deal.”
Despite this space gap, the United States has obligations to the fifteen countries it seduced, kidnapped, and recruited into a $35-100 billion project, the vastly underutilized International Space Station. The International Space Station is an incredible achievement, a historically monumental construction on a par with the pyramids and the Parthenon. And to fulfill our obligations to our partners, we are committed to sending roughly 56 more astronauts to the station. Which leaves us with a problem. How do we send our men and women to space when we have no launch vehicle capable of carrying humans?
It’s simple. We rely on a nation some of whose media outlets, believe it or not, still portray us as the enemy: Russia. Yes, Pravda.ru, which has been described as “the largest news and analytical Internet-holding in Russia,” says week after week that the USA is a degenerate and murderous nation. With headlines like the current “Killing Russian Children Not a Tragedy for U.S.”
Only a few months ago, the Russians charged us $55.8 million a ticket to send a single astronaut to space and to bring her back on their Soyuz rockets. But since they have no competitors to drive down the price, the Russians have hiked the fare by 12% to $62.7 million dollars per ticket. And the price could go up farther.
Here’s where the ability of the sequestration to turn the saving of a penny into the loss of a billion comes in. Inside sources at NASA say that the sequestration will only cut $25 million to $30 million from the Commercial Crew contracts. By government standards, that sounds like a mere piffle. Right?
But through the magic of cumulative blunders, that tiny loss of money will turn into a torrent. It will delay the Commercial Crew Program for roughly two years. And every year we go without our own access to space, we are forced to pay another $350 million to $400 million to the Russians. In fact, on March 14, NASA reached an agreement to pay Russia $753 million for twelve round trip tickets to our station in the sky. That’s three quarters of a billion dollars. And if the U.S.’s period without American vehicles stretches out, that figure will increase. Think about it. $753 million or more siphoned from the American space program and used to underwrite Russian research and development and Russian leadership in space. When Russia’s Sputnik went up in 1957 and shocked the USA, the idea of underwriting Russian space development and crippling ours would have been unthinkable.
Nearly as bad, the Commercial Crew Program works by paying the three competing companies only when they meet milestones. Until then, these firms have to advance their own cash. They work “on the come.” If these companies have factored the government payment into their projections of cash flow and if they reach their milestones, the government’s refusal to pay up can bankrupt them. Or seriously set them back. This is NOT the way to encourage American ingenuity, American entrepreneurship, and American job creation. It makes the American government, the government that represents you and me, a bad business partner. A deadbeat.
Concludes Dave Dunlop, head of the International Committee for the National Space Society and a member of the group I run, The Space Development Steering Committee, “No wonder recent polls show that colonoscopies are more popular than Congress.” Or, as percussionist Ralph MacDonald once advised, “Don’t stop to pick up the pennies when the dollars are flying over your head.”
- Sequestration Shovels Money to the Russians (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
- Millionaire to send married couple past Mars (cosmiclog.nbcnews.com)
- SpaceX will Resupply ISS for NASA with Dragon Capsule: Win a Front Row Seat (scienceworldreport.com)
- SpaceX Dragon capsule to make third trip to ISS on March 1 (slashgear.com)
- SpaceX on target for Friday launch of next mission to International Space Station (al.com)
- Space Launch System, Orion wouldn’t be affected by sequestration (al.com)
- SpaceX’s Dragon Capsule Slated For ISS Launch On March 1, NASA Says (huffingtonpost.com)
- A New Spaceflight Venture Is Trying to Beat NASA to Mars Within the Decade (motherboard.vice.com)
- SpaceX ready to launch cargo flight to the space station (denverpost.com)
- Next Private Spacecraft Launch to Space Station Set for March 1 (space.com)
SpaceX Test Fires Advanced New Engine
By Marc Boucher
Posted February 1, 2012 11:59 AM
SpaceX has successfully test fired SuperDraco
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has successfully test fired SuperDraco, a powerful new engine that will play a critical role in the company’s efforts to change the future of human spaceflight.
“SuperDraco engines represent the best of cutting edge technology,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and Chief Technology Officer. “These engines will power a revolutionary launch escape system that will make Dragon the safest spacecraft in history and enable it to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy.”
The SuperDraco is an advanced version of the Draco engines currently used by SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to maneuver on orbit and during reentry. As part of SpaceX’s state-of-the-art launch escape system, eight SuperDraco engines built into the side walls of the Dragon spacecraft will produce up to 120,000 pounds of axial thrust to carry astronauts to safety should an emergency occur during launch.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program awarded SpaceX $75 million in April of last year to begin work developing the escape system in order to prepare the Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts. Less than nine months later, SpaceX engineers have designed, built and tested the engine.
In a series of recent tests conducted at the company’s Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas, the SuperDraco sustained full duration, full thrust firing as well as a series of deep throttling demonstrations.
SpaceX’s launch escape system has many advantages over past systems. It is inherently safer because it is not jettisoned like all other escape systems. This distinction provides astronauts with the unprecedented ability to escape from danger at any point during the launch, not just in the first few minutes. The eight SuperDracos provide redundancy, so that even if one engine fails an escape can still be carried out successfully.
SuperDracos can also be restarted multiple times if necessary and the engines will have the ability to deep throttle, providing astronauts with precise control and enormous power. In addition, as a part of a recoverable Dragon spacecraft, the engines can be used repeatedly, helping to advance SpaceX’s long-term goal of making spacecraft more like airplanes, which can be flown again and again with minimal maintenance between flights.
CAPTION: SuperDraco engines will provide the Dragon spacecraft with the capability to perform on target propulsive landings anywhere in the solar system. Credit: SpaceX
CAPTION: SuperDraco engines will power a revolutionary launch escape system that will make SpaceX’s Dragon the safest spacecraft in the world. Eight SuperDraco engines built into the side walls of the Dragon spacecraft will produce up to 120,000 pounds of axial thrust to carry astronauts to safety should an emergency occur during launch. Credit: SpaceX
- SpaceX moves toward manned flight (gizmag.com)
- AFP: Space capsule heads home from ISS (mbcalyn.com)
- SpaceX Transitions to Third Commercial Crew Phase (spacefellowship.com)
- SpaceX’s Manned Dragon Space Capsule Explained (physicsforme.wordpress.com)
- SpaceX’s Dragon Completes First Official Cargo Run to the ISS (dailytech.com)
- SpaceX Conducts Successful Static Fire (spacefellowship.com)
- Private SpaceX Capsule Leaves Space Station for Earth Return (space.com)
- SpaceX Dragon completes first commercial cargo flight (fox6now.com)
- You: SpaceX capsule, packed with supplies, set to return from station (latimes.com)
- SpaceX Dragon Splashes Down With Cargo, Including … Frozen Blood? (wired.com)
Spot the Space Station Over Your Backyard with New NASA Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — On the 12th anniversary of crews continuously living and working aboard the International Space Station, NASA announced Friday a new service to help people see the orbiting laboratory when it passes overhead. “Spot the Station” will send an email or text message to those who sign up for the service a few hours before they will be able to see the space station.
“It’s really remarkable to see the space station fly overhead and to realize humans built an orbital complex that can be spotted from Earth by almost anyone looking up at just the right moment,” said William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations. “We’re accomplishing science on the space station that is helping to improve life on Earth and paving the way for future exploration of deep space.”
When the space station is visible — typically at dawn and dusk — it is the brightest object in the night sky, other than the moon. On a clear night, the station is visible as a fast moving point of light, similar in size and brightness to the planet Venus. “Spot the Station” users will have the options to receive alerts about morning, evening or both types of sightings.
The International Space Station’s trajectory passes over more than 90 percent of Earth’s population. The service is designed to only notify users of passes that are high enough in the sky to be easily visible over trees, buildings and other objects on the horizon. NASA’s Johnson Space Center calculates the sighting information several times a week for more than 4,600 locations worldwide, all of which are available on “Spot the Station.”
Nov. 2 marks 12 years of continuous human habitation of the space station.
To sign up for “Spot the Station,” visit: http://spotthestation.nasa.gov.
For information about the International Space Station and a full list of sightings, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station.
- Spot the International Space Station with new NASA service (siliconrepublic.com)
- It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … the Space Station (dailystar.com.lb)
- Get a text message from NASA when the International Space Station flies over your house (dailymail.co.uk)
- NASA launches Space Station alert (bigpondnews.com)
- NASA launches alerts to spot the space station from your back yard (rawstory.com)
- NASA to text space station alerts (news.com.au)
- Spot The Space Station Over Your Backyard With New NASA Service (yubanet.com)
- When The International Space Station Passes Over Your House, NASA Will Send You A Text Message (theatlantic.com)
- Space Station’s Orbit Raised to Avoid Space Junk (spacemart.com)
- NASA will help you spot the International Space Station in the sky (ndtv.com)
Space capsule heads home from ISS
WASHINGTON — The unmanned Dragon space capsule set off from the International Space Station Sunday for the cargo-laden return trip to Earth after successfully delivering its first commercial payload, NASA said.
Using a robotic arm, an astronaut aboard the floating laboratory detached and released the capsule at 1329 GMT after an 18-day mission to resupply the space station, the first ever by a privately-owned company, SpaceX.
The next step will be to bring the capsule out of orbit by intermittently firing its onboard engines to slow its speed.
It is then supposed to parachute into the Pacific Ocean off the California coast at 1920 GMT.
The Dragon’s descent will be controlled by SpaceX from a center in Hawthorne, California, although NASA, which was in charge of the decoupling operation, will continue to provide communications.
The mission — the first of 12 planned trips in SpaceX’s $1.6 billion contract with NASA — is a milestone for American efforts to privatize the space industry, aimed at reducing costs and spreading them among a wider group than governments alone.
The capsule delivered about 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms) of cargo to the space station and is taking home 1,670 pounds (758 kilograms) of supplies, hardware and scientific tests and results.
Owned by billionaire Paypal co-founder Elon Musk, SpaceX is one of several private firms working with the US space agency to send flights to and from the ISS, but SpaceX is the first to become operational.
The next SpaceX flight is scheduled for early January 2013.
NASA has been relying on Russian spacecraft for the last year, after retiring its fleet of shuttles — but the Soyuz craft does not have room for cargo on the return flight.
- Space capsule heads home from ISS (rawstory.com)
- SpaceX Dragon Capsule To Bring Astronaut Blood, Urine Back To Earth From ISS (huffingtonpost.com)
- SpaceX Dragon capsule leaves ISS, returning to Earth today (slashgear.com)
- SpaceX’s Dragon capsule prepares to head home (news.cnet.com)
- Dragon Exits ISS, Heads Home (newser.com)
- SpaceX capsule headed back to Earth (koinlocal6.com)
- SpaceX Dragon capsule set to launch for ISS tomorrow (slashgear.com)
- SpaceX Dragon Capsule Successfully Sent Toward the ISS [VIDEO] (mashable.com)
- Private SpaceX Capsule Leaves Space Station for Earth Return (space.com)
- SpaceX Dragon capsule launched to ISS (thehindu.com)
TIFI WIN: Astronauts Fix a Critical Power Unit on the International Space Station With a Toothbrush – Cheezburger
TIFI WIN: Astronauts Fix a Critical Power Unit on the International Space Station With a Toothbrush
Move over, duct tape, because it’s toothbrush’s time to shine! Astronauts Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide were having a trouble getting a bolt repaired on the Main Bus Switching Unit (MBSU) of the International Space Station during an 8-hour spacewalk on August 30.
The MBSU is part of the station’s framework designed to control the movement of external stowage platforms which house spare parts and equipment. Frustrated with the unit’s lack of cooperation, the astronauts turned to a rather unconventional set of tools. As Space.com describes:
“One was a modified toothbrush that was used to lubricate the inside of the bolt’s housing after debris and metal shavings from inside had been removed. Another improvised instrument included a cleaning tool that had been made from wires that were bent back to form a brush, explained Keith Johnson, lead spacewalk director at the Johnson Space Center.”
Just goes to show you that sometimes the best fix is the simplest! Occam’s Toothbrush, anyone?
- Astronauts Use Toothbrush for Space Station Fix (news.discovery.com)
- How Astronauts Used A Toothbrush To Fix The Space Station (scientificamerican.com)
- How astronauts used a toothbrush to fix space station (cbsnews.com)
- MacGyver’d it! Astronauts repair space station with spare toothbrush (dvice.com)
- Behold, the Toothbrush That Just Saved the International Space Station (adafruit.com)
- Astronauts fix the International Space Station using a toothbrush (refreshingnews99.blogspot.com)
- Sunita Williams on Spacewalk (ravtul.wordpress.com)
- Astronauts Use Toothbrush to Fix International Space Station (newsfeed.time.com)
- Astronauts fix the Space Station with a toothbrush (boingboing.net)
- Astronauts Use Toothbrush To Fix Space Station (eurasiareview.com)
Expedition 32 Crew Lifts Off
by JASON MAJOR on JULY 15, 2012
At 9:40 p.m. CDT a Soyuz TMA-05M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan carrying Expedition 32 Commander Yuri Malenchenko, NASA Flight Engineer Sunita “Suni” Williams and JAXA Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide to the International Space Station. It was a beautiful launch on a hot summer day at the Cosmodrome — watch the video after the jump:
(My favorite part was when the Soyuz punched a hole in the clouds!)
Exact time of the launch was 9:40:3.91 CDT, docking with the ISS will occur on Monday at 11:52 p.m. CDT. Read more about the crew of Expedition 32 here.
Of historical note, the Expedition 32 launch occurred on the same day that the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project launched in 1975. Designed to test the compatibility of rendezvous and docking systems and the possibility of an international space rescue, the nine-day Apollo-Soyuz mission brought together two former spaceflight rivals: the United States and the Soviet Union. Without the success of that project, we might not have had an International Space Station in orbit today.
Image: NASA/Carla Cioffi. Video: NASA HD TV/Ustream
- Space station crew set for launch (edition.cnn.com)
- Sunita Williams’ Multiple Tasks in Space Besides Expedition 32 (ibtimes.com)
- NASA TV to cover three hams docking at ISS (southgatearc.org)
- Liftoff! Launch Photos for Space Station’s Expedition 32 Crew (space.com)
- Latest Crew Blasts Off For International Space Station (prnewswire.com)
- New Station Crew Members Set For Launch Saturday (spacefellowship.com)
- Veteran Space Station Crew to Launch Into Orbit Tonight (space.com)
- New Space Station Crew Launches Into Orbit on Russian Spacecraft (space.com)
- Sunita Williams takes off for second space mission (thehindu.com)
- Expedition 32 Crew Lifts Off (universetoday.com)
Congress and NASA reach deal on space taxis
posted by Mark Matthews on June, 5 2012
WASHINGTON — Top officials at NASA and in Congress have reached an accord on how the agency should proceed in developing “space taxis” to service the International Space Station.
At issue has been the number of companies NASA would pay in order to develop rockets and capsules that could ferry NASA astronauts to the floating observatory by the end of the decade.
NASA has pushed to pay four companies for the service, but the U.S. House balked at that idea earlier this year, saying that was too many, and passed legislation that would cap the number at two — with most of the money likely going to one provider. Last year, NASA doled out $269 million among four companies, including SpaceX.
In response to the House, NASA and the White House have pressed to keep their options open on the grounds that reducing the field would stifle competition.
Now it appears as if the two sides have come to a deal.
U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, the Virginia Republican who heads the House appropriation subcommittee with NASA oversight, said today that the program would fully fund two companies — and could partially fund a third.
That’s down from as many as four companies, according to Wolf.
“This downselect will reduce taxpayer exposure by concentrating funds on those participants who are most likely to be chosen to eventually provide service to ISS,” he said in a statement.
The deal also would lay the groundwork for NASA to impose stiffer regulations on the companies competing to develop the rockets and capsules — a priority for Wolf — while giving NASA more leeway to nix contracts if it thinks aspiring companies are overselling their capability and financial health.
The accord comes at an interesting time for NASA and the commercial space business.
The agency plans to dole out the next round of awards for space taxis this summer; an effort that got a boost last week when SpaceX of California — working with NASA funds — made history when it became the first commercial company to berth a spacecraft to the station and return it safely.
- NASA astronauts open SpaceX capsule hatch and begin unloading cargo – latimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- Robotic SpaceX Craft Docks With Space Station – Maggie Fox – NationalJournal.com (mbcalyn.com)
- Spaceships will follow Dragon’s trail (photoblog.msnbc.msn.com)
- SpaceX’s Dragon capsule docks with international space station – The Washington Post (mbcalyn.com)
- Spaceships will follow Dragon’s trail (photoblog.msnbc.msn.com)
- SpaceX’s Success Should Lead to NASA Being Cut to the Bone (forbes.com)
- SpaceX Dragon returns to Earth, ends historic trip (miamiherald.com)
- Commercial Space Race at Make-or-Break Moment (foxnews.com)
- First SpaceX Dragon Cargo Flight Ends With a Splash (nytimes.com)
- SpaceX Dragon set for rendezvous (bbc.co.uk)